THE PUBLICIST: Disneyland press director is the happiest PR pro on Earth

Hey, John Q! You've lost your job, your country's at war, and your portfolio is in the toilet. What are you going to do now? "I'm going to Disneyland!"

Hey, John Q! You've lost your job, your country's at war, and your portfolio is in the toilet. What are you going to do now? "I'm going to Disneyland!"

Hell, yeah, you are. And I'm right behind you, pal. Because when the going gets tough, the tough...I dunno, do something...the rest of us go to the Magic Kingdom. I specifically wanted to check out the two new Winnie the Pooh attractions. Sure, they're aimed at five-year-olds, but you're as young as you feel, right? I don't recall Pooh being part of the Disney domain, but I suppose he came under Mickey's jurisdiction when the company bought England. I was taken under the wing of the House of Mouse's press director, Tom Brocato, who escorted me to the Pooh show and throughout the California Adventure Park. OK. The Pooh show is too corny for adults (even me), but if there's anything cuter than seeing adorable tykes dance and chase bubbles, I don't know what it is. After nearly puking on the "California Screamin'" roller coaster, and being awed (but not shocked) by "Soarin' Over California," I asked Brocato how Disney was promoting "the happiest place on Earth" during wartime. "We try to be sensitive to what's going on in the world, and approach each special event on a case-by-case basis," he explains. "We thought it appropriate to scale this opening down from the larger event originally planned. At the same time, we have a job to do, and guests to take care of, so we want to ensure they get the full experience they expect when they visit." Brocato and 13 staff publicists handle a whopping 35 or so events each year, sometimes hiring outside PR help for special promotions. The operation is organized into video, still, and media relations departments, and with the down economy, Brocato says Disney is relying on PR and special attractions (like concerts and star appearances) to drive business, especially locally. Brocato collected litter and shared birthday greetings during our tour, epitomizing Disney's commitment to cleanliness and friendliness. I couldn't work there myself. (I'd have to wear matching socks and smile.) But I so enjoy their Swiss-clock efficiency when I'm a guest. (They actually vary the amount of water spray on the log ride depending on the temperature.) And now that vino is available (at the Golden Vine Winery) I have more enthusiasm for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Woo hoo! Let's drain the Chianti and go again.
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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